Cool Mac Gear: Entertainment
You can't wear headphones all the time, right? That's why the electronics stores are crammed with iPod speakers. If you really want to do your iPod justice, you've got to ditch the earbuds that came with it and upgrade. Here's the hottest assortment of speakers, headphones, and the coolest way to watch movies from your Mac.
You can't wear headphones all the time, right? That's why the electronics stores are crammed with iPod speakers. Among the new models worth checking out are the following:
The iGroove SXT ($170), from Klipsch, gives you much of the same performance as the company's standard iGroove desktop speaker system, but in a smaller package and for less money. Tweeters featuring Klipsch's horn-loaded technology deliver the detail, and an automatic wake feature lets you use your iPod's built-in alarm to nudge yourself out of bed.
Want something more portable? Sonic Impact's i-F3 ($170) combines the rugged built-into-a-hard-case design of the company's i-Fusion and i-F2 speaker systems, but adds a digital alarm clock and FM radio. The system sounds good for its size, includes a rechargeable battery, stands up to quite a bit of abuse, and can even store your iPod and earbuds inside the case.
If you're more interested in an audio system for the bedroom, Logitech has designed, from the ground up, the ultimate iPod alarm clockÑthe Pure-Fi Dream ($250). Its amber lights and screen automatically dim based on ambient light, but brighten whenever the Pure-Fi detects a hand near the controls. (The motion sensors also pick up wild, flailing-for-the-snooze-button movements in the early morn.) Every control is backlit, so it's easy to set either of the Pure-Fi's two alarms in even a pitch-black room. Oh, and it's also a very nice speaker system, with a screen that displays information about the current iPod track.
For the iPod owner who has everything, or the design-conscious customer who doesn't want just any iPod speaker, consider the Zeppelin ($600) from Bowers & Wilkins (more widely known as simply B&W), a striking debut entry in the iPod-accessory market. The Zeppelin shrinks down the company's high-end speaker technologies and puts them into a sleek, capsule-shaped system with five drivers and three amplifiers. A unique iPod-docking arm lets you wrap your hand around the iPod to operate it, just as if you were holding the iPod in your hand. And like the iPod, both the Zeppelin and its stylish remote have shiny chrome backsides.
JBL On Air Control 2.4G
JBL's On Air Control 2.4G ($349) combines an audio transmitter with a pair of compact, amplified, wireless speakers to let you listen anywhere in your house, regardless of the location of your audio source. You just connect the small transmitter to that sourceÑvia analog cables or, in the case of a computer, USBÑand turn on the speakers. You can also connect a second audio source (say, an iPod) directly to the speakers. A wireless remote lets you adjust volume and switch the input source without having to venture to the room with the transmitter.
If you're especially aesthetically mindedÑthe kind of person who doesn't even want to see speakers in a roomÑyou'll appreciate Soundolier's Duo Wireless Speaker Lamp ($300). To casual observers, it looks like any other stylish floor lamp. (And it does indeed light the room.) But inside each lamp is an omnidirectional 5.25-inch speaker and a wireless receiver. Connect the system's transmitter to your audio source, and you've got sound, up to 300 feet away, without traditional speakers cluttering up your room. If you have two Soundolier Duos, you can even use them as left and right speakers or as rear speakers in a surround-sound system.-Dan Frakes
If you really want to do your iPod justice, you've got to ditch the earbuds that came with it and upgrade.
Ultimate Ears' triple.fi 10 Pro ($400), the company's top universal-fit, in-ear-canal model, is among the best that we've tested. Using three drivers in each ear, the triple.fi 10 Pro provides sound quality that rivals that of the company's much more expensive custom-made personal monitors, in a design that fits any ear. The downside? You may need to rerip all of your CDs at a higher quality level.
Noise-canceling headphones are a great alternative for frequent travelers or people who spend their days in noisy environments. The headset samples the noise around you and then produces an inverse audio signal that cancels out some of that sound, letting you enjoy your music at the same time. Audio Technica's ATH-ANC7 ($220) is our current favorite among noise-canceling models, thanks to its excellent noise isolation and reduction, solid build, long-term comfort, and great sound quality.
iSkin's Cerulean F1 and TX (F1 alone, $130; both, $190) let you listen to your iPod with no strings attached. The TX plugs into your iPod's dock-
connector port and sends audio, via Bluetooth, to the F1's two earpieces, which are attached to each other by a short cable that wraps behind your head. You can even control iPod playback from the right earpiece. (If rumors are true that stereo Bluetooth may come to the iPhone via a software update, the F1 should then work with the iPhone without requiring the TX.)
If you care about your ears, you should guard them by limiting your listening volume and by protecting them when you're in noisy environments. Inexpensive earplugs work well for the latter situation, but they make everything sound muffled and distant. That's why Etymotic's Musicians Earplugs ($150 to $200) make a great gift for any music lover. These plugs don't come cheap, and they require a trip to the audiologist to get custom molds made. But they fit perfectly and reduce noise levels without affecting sound quality, so you can enjoy every note of a live concert without enduring ringing ears later.-Dan Frakes
Video: MovieMate 50
Sure, big-screen plasma and rear-projection TVs are great for watching movies. But to really get your cinematic geek on, there's nothing like a projector that blasts your favorite film theater-size across the nearest white wall. Epson America's new MovieMate 50 ($800) isn't the only projector that'll let you plug in a DVD player or Mac laptop to project your favorite movies, but it's one of the smallest all-in-one projectors on the market.
The MovieMate 50 includes its own DVD and CD player, two built-in speakers, offset lens shift for distortion-free images, Epson's 3LCD technology for brilliant images and video, and a sleek black design. Oh, yeah, it'll also do a dandy job in the conference room at work for those boring old presentations.-Dan Miller
Games: My Jigsaw
My Jigsaw makes customized jigsaw puzzles for people who think they're the center of the universe. You provide a mailing address and $40, and My Jigsaw returns a 12-by-18-inch, 400-piece puzzle.
Based on the U.S. Geological Survey's incredibly detailed maps, the puzzle shows the location you provided and the 24 square miles surrounding it, complete with roads, topographic contour lines, notable buildings, and more ($40).-DM
Audio: Fatman iTube
Fatman iTube amp and dock
Audiophiles complain that compressed music sounds cold and thin. Many also swear that old-school valve amps deliver sound that's warmer and fuller than what you get from today's transistor-based hardware. Translate those two observations into a product, and you get TL Audio's Fatman iTube amp and dock for iPods ($750).
As the name implies, it's a tube-based amp designed specifically for iPods. The iTube comes with a dock for your iPod and a squat, chrome-faced amplifier with three vacuum tubes proudly sprouting out of its top. You also get a 27-function remote control, and composite and S-Video outputs so that you can watch iPod-hosted videos on your TV.-DM
[ Brian Chen is an assistant editor for Macworld . Dan Frakes is a senior editor for Macworld and the senior reviews editor for Playlistmag.com . Dan Miller is the executive editor of Macworld . Dan Moren is an associate editor for Macworld . Kelly Turner is a senior editor for Macworld.]